Hawks move four points clear at top of National League

National League: Hackney Hawks 54-41 Buxton

The Hackney Hawks completed a quick double over last season’s champions Buxton, to extend their lead at the top of the National League to four points.

The Hawks were, however, made to fight in the closing stages for the final available match point.

The Hawks provided the first man past the post in nine of the first twelve heats, with four of those races – all involving reignited reserve Ben Hopwood – producing 5-1s, to help boost the progressive score to a comfortable 45-29. Buxton gave their hosts a scare, though, when Robert Branford combined with Adam Allott to blast an 8-1 in heat 13, reducing the margin to just nine points.

With Ben Taylor then heading home Hopwood and Marc Owen in the next race, Hackney took a 49-40 advantage into the final heat, needing to avoid a 5-1 to claim the third match point.

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That objective was achieved in emphatic fashion when David Mason and Barrie Evans led Allott and Branford from the tapes to the chequered flag. Mason finished the night with a monster 16 points, with both Evans and Hopwood close behind on 15.

Hackney-operated rider-replacement for injured number one Shane Hazelden, who is out with a fractured and dislocated finger but aiming to return to action for next Saturday’s British under-19 Championship at Rye House.

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The Hawks had hoped to book Paul Starke – who had been instrumental in Sunday’s first victory over the Hitmen in Derbyshire – as a guest, but the 2010 rocket was injured.

Joint team manager John Sampford was happy with the way things went on the night.

“We got the result we wanted tonight,” he said.

“We were cruising at heat 12, but the 8-1 in heat 13 changed matters a bit.

“In the end, David (Mason) and Barrie (Evans) trapped in the final race to make absolutely sure there was never a chance of Buxton getting a repeat result there.

“You can’t underestimate the contribution of our top three – David Mason, Barrie Evans and Ben Hopwood – tonight, but we needed the other riders to also score, and they did.

“Ben (Morley), in particular, was doing well until he hit mechanical problems in his fourth ride, and he eventually had to borrow a bike for heat 13.”

Hackney scorers: Shane Hazelden R/R, Ben Morley 7+1 (5 rides), David Mason 16 (6), Marc Owen 3+2 (4), Barrie Evans 12+3 (6), Brandon Freemantle 2+1 (3), Ben Hopwood 14+1 (6).

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